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2014 Draft Prep: Breakouts, 2.0

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week long $100,000 Fantasy Football contest for just Week 1. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now

Sleepers, 2.0 | Busts, 2.0 | Draft Averages | Rankings | Draft Index

Apologies to Khiry Robinson and Tavon Austin, breakout candidates chewed up and spit out by the preseason machine. They've been replaced by Shane Vereen and Kelvin Benjamin, both of whom not only have had a stellar preseason, but also have potential for big, fat stats.

That's what we live for -- fat stats.

Remember that breakout players aren't just guys you'll look at in the first five rounds of your draft. Mid- and late-round picks also qualify, many of which are listed below. Arming yourself with some of these names will ease your concerns when you get toward the back half of your draft and have no idea who to pick. These players aren't just names to know, they are potential starters you could lean on from week to week. If you had a list like that last year with Josh Gordon, Keenan Allen and Giovani Bernard on it, you would have probably made a run at a title in your league.

Even though we've updated our breakouts, many still remain from our first version, complete with analysis that still applies even though it was written in late July. Consider the original breakout list a supplement to this list.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers

I'm sticking with Kaepernick despite the weak preseason start. The biggest problem with the Niners isn't him -- it's the O-line. Frankly, the coaching staff is too savvy to not work around the line if they can't fix it outright. It's been a staple of their team since Jim Harbaugh took over and it seems odd to think that all of a sudden it will be a weakness. When Kaepernick wasn't on his back this preseason, he was on point with most of his passes. It's clear from watching their formations and reviewing their offseason moves that the passing game is going to be a big point of emphasis for them. I'm counting on a career-high in passing yards and total touchdowns from Kaepernick in 2014.
I'd take him ahead of: Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton

Montee Ball, RB, Broncos

Appendectomy what? Soon after Ball had emergency surgery he was back in Denver's preseason games. And they need him -- backup Ronnie Hillman had two starts to make a bid for touches and couldn't come up with a big game. Maybe if you're a fan of Hillman's you'll argue that he ran into tough defenses in Seattle and San Francisco, but the bottom line is that Hillman did zilch to suggest he could be the Broncos' lead tailback. So, Ball is back in the big boy spot next to Peyton Manning by default. That's a good spot to be in -- running backs have accumulated at least 12 touchdowns and over 1,800 total yards next to Peyton in each of his last five full seasons. Just ask Knowshon Moreno how it worked out for him working with Manning. Ball's in line for a slew of stats as defenses shy away from slowing him down since it'll mean Manning throwing over the top to any one of his receiving weapons.
I'd still take him ahead of: Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell

Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars

It's been a rough start for Gerhart as he's totaled 51 yards on 16 carries and an 8-yard catch through two preseason games, but he's a guy worth keeping faith in. Gerhart is easily Jacksonville's top back after auditions for Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson went nowhere. It might not be pretty -- we could see a lot of 17-carry, 60-yard days in our future -- but he should do enough catching passes and working the goal line to make up for it. I've referenced our research into Gerhart previously and still view him as a trustworthy No. 2 Fantasy running back.
I'd still gladly take him ahead of: C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson

Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants

So far this preseason the only bright spot for the Giants offense has been the run game. That could mean the team leans on its backs in the early going. When we called Jennings a breakout before, David Wilson was still in the picture for the ground game. Wilson's football career is over and his track career is beginning, eliminating one player from the workload. Andre Williams is a threat to steal touchdowns from Jennings, but it remains to be seen just how many overall touches he'll take away. Both Giants running backs are breakout candidates, but Jennings is the one you'll consider first in drafts. In PPR leagues he's safer as a No. 2 Fantasy rusher, but he can fill that role if you're needy for help in standard leagues.
I'd still take him ahead of: Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew, Trent Richardson

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots

Stevan Ridley might have looked like the best rushing option for the Patriots this preseason, but his track record of fumbles has either caught up to him or is about to catch up to him. In New England's third preseason game we noted Ridley on the field for 11 snaps with the starters while Vereen had 30. Vereen also won't tip the Patriots' game plan from play to play to opponents like Ridley has. So even though Vereen has a paltry 3.6 rushing average this preseason (Ridley has 3.9 on a dozen more carries) he's still the Patriots' best running back. Further evidence could be found in his receiving totals this preseason: seven catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, both coming against the Panthers in their third exhibition game. Through three seasons, Vereen has 1,092 total yards and nine touchdowns. We think he'll combine for more than 1,092 yards in this upcoming season while delivering close to nine scores, if not nine on the button. Health is an issue -- he's played in just 21 games over the last two seasons -- but his potential to be a monster in the Patriots backfield cannot be ignored. He's on my breakout list for the second year in a row.
I'd take him ahead of: Lions running backs, Bills running backs, Ravens running backs

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

You're going to come to a point late in your draft where you're looking for low-risk breakout candidates. Baldwin's the one I turn to. When we last wrote about Baldwin, Sidney Rice was still on the active roster. He's since retired. Percy Harvin is still on the active roster and healthy, which is good for Baldwin since he'll command coverage and leave Baldwin in favorable situations. He caught over 70 pct. of his targets last season and postseason and looked just as good if not better than Golden Tate in 2013. If he can grab 70 of 100-to-110 targets he could be in line for a 1,000-yard season (his track record suggests he can do this.
I'd take him ahead of: Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Kenny Stills

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

Cam Newton could be in for a rough season, but we've seen quality receivers put up big numbers without their quarterback doing the same. One such guy is Steve Smith, who for years put up nice numbers with the likes of Jake Delhomme as his quarterback. Smith totaled over 1,100 yards from Newton in Cam's first two seasons as a result of a lot of targets and his game-breaking skills at the time. We can already tell that Benjamin is in line to lead the Panthers in targets this season -- everyone else in the Carolina offense is just pedestrian. And we can tell that Benjamin has taken well to the pro game and has shown off quite a catching radius to go with his long-stride running style and insane height (he's 6-foot-5). Because of the improvements we've seen from him along with Newton leaning on him, he's become my favorite rookie receiver. Don't rule out a 1,000-yard season from him.
I'd take him ahead of: Julian Edelman, Mike Wallace and any rookie receiver.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings

The more we watch him, the more we fall in love. Patterson's incredible size/speed skill set and solid finish to last season combined with Norv Turner's arrival to blend some spice into what was a vanilla Vikings offense makes the second-year receiver a legit threat to topple 1,200 total yards and seven touchdowns. The Vikings will start the year with Matt Cassel under center and he seems to have a good connection with Patterson, as evidenced by their 53-yard touchdown at Kansas City in the third week of preseason action. This one's a no-brainer -- Patterson should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with No. 1 potential, which will make him a guy to target on Draft Day.
I'd take him ahead of: Keenan Allen, Michael Floyd, Roddy White

Rueben Randle, WR, Giants

With only three catches this preseason, Randle leads all starting Giants wideouts in yards per catch (17.7) and touchdowns (one). Of course, that shouldn't be the reason to take Randle. This is: He remains a playmaker in the Giants offense, one that should round into form soon after the first couple of games. The new scheme will yield easier routes to run and passes to catch, making him more efficient while also giving him a shot at breaking off long gains for touchdowns, which he did a decent amount of in 2013. Victor Cruz might be the top banana and will draw a lot of attention, opening up opportunities for Randle.
I'd take him ahead of: Brandin Cooks, Jeremy Maclin, Reggie Wayne

Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

This is a pretty simple equation: Bad Cowboys defense plus good Cowboys offense equals a lot of points per week. And if Dallas is going to average, say, 27.4 points per game like they did last year, then getting pieces of the offense is a good idea. Williams is quite affordable in drafts with a pick around 90th overall and should be able to do better than the 736 yards and five touchdowns he had as a rookie. He's third Fantasy receiver material with potential to be a Top 20 pass catcher.
I'd still take him ahead of: Eric Decker, Kendall Wright, Percy Harvin

Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

Even with the Eagles offense showing some warts this preseason, there's a ton to like about Ertz. He's big, strong, fast and has some nice mitts to reel in passes from Nick Foles, whom he's spent time with this offseason developing chemistry. Through three preseason games, Ertz is second on the team in receiving with 110 yards on a second-best eight catches along with a score, the overwhelming majority of which came with the first-team offense. Interpret this as a sign that the targets are going to be there for him this season, especially in the red zone, where defenses can't match up well with him. And as I referenced earlier this offseason, Chip Kelly used tight ends more last year than all but one of his seasons as a college coach. Ertz isn't going to fade away or lose a lot of work to Brent Celek.
I'd take him ahead of: Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed

Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers

Green's preseason hasn't been filled with highlight reel receptions or big stats, but he's been working a good amount with the Chargers first-team offense. He's even tied with the team lead in receptions with five -- and the only starting receiver/tight end with at least three grabs. The thought here is that the Bolts have a stud wideout in Keenan Allen and a tried-and-true favorite in Malcom Floyd along with Antonio Gates. Green is their next best player and getting his 6-foot-6, 240-pound body on the field will cause all sorts of mismatch problems. Head coach Mike McCoy said he wished he used Green more last season and seems like he won't hesitate to go with Green this season.
I'd take him ahead of: Martellus Bennett, Eric Ebron, Antonio Gates

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Player News
Jaguars announce DT Sen'Derrick Marks has torn ACL
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) The Jaguars announced Monday that defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks has a torn ACL that will need reconstruction, reports the Associated Press. Marks is going through the prerehab process before he goes under the knife.

Marks sustained the injury in a Week 17 loss to Houston. His season ends with 44 combined tackles, 8 1/2 sacks and one fumble recovery.


RG3 wants to be back with Redskins in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said he wants to return to Washington in 2015. However, Griffin -- who has one year left on his rookie contract -- said he has not had any discussions with coach Jay Gruden about his status for next season.

"We haven’t had that discussion or cleared the air on any of that kind of stuff," Griffin said, per ESPN. "My focus is, I want to be here. I want to help this team win, try to turn this thing around and change the culture around here. That’s my only focus. If coach Jay and this organization wants me around, then I’ll be here I’ll be ready to go. I’ll make sure that happens."

The Redskins finished last in the NFC East in 2014 with a 4-12 record. Griffin went 2-5 in seven starts this season and missed several weeks due to an ankle injury. He is 14-21 in three seasons with Washington. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.


Eagles coach Chip Kelly: I want LeSean McCoy back next season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:34 am ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said on WIP-FM Radio in Philadelphia on Monday morning he wants running back LeSean McCoy back next season.

Both of McCoy's best statistical seasons have come under Kelly. He rushed for 1,319 yards in 2014, the second-highest total of his career. McCoy is the only running back in Eagles history with three seasons of at least 1,300 rushing yards. He is under contract through 2017 and is set to make $9.75 million next season.

"The season just ended, and ... I'm an Eagle. I love it here," McCoy said following Sunday's win over the Giants, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. "My six years here have been excellent. I've been very, very, very productive here. I have a great relationship with my coaches, the owner.

"We'll see what happens. It's a business. Anything can happen; I know that. But I'm sure we can work something out. And hopefully, everything does work out. They know how I feel about them. I know how they feel about me. So we'll see what happens. At the end of the day, it's a business."


Eagles' Nick Foles: I expect to be the QB in 2015
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles told reporters Monday he expects to be the quarterback in 2015, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

"They can bring in anybody they like. I’m going to compete," Foles said.

Foles signed a four-year, $2.769 million contract in 2012 and is due to be a free agent in 2016. He declined to comment when asked about seeking an extension. Foles is eligible for one after the season.

Foles tossed 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in 2013, but took a bit of a step back in 2014 before his season was cut short due to a broken collarbone. He threw for 2,163 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in nine games before getting hurt. Mark Sanchez took over for Foles and went 4-4 with a 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Eagles finished 10-6, falling just one game shy of a playoff spot.


Bills QB Kyle Orton announces his retirement
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) The Bills announced that quarterback Kyle Orton has informed the team he's retiring from professional football, reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Monday.

After being released by the Cowboys in July and contemplating retirement, Orton signed with the Bills at the end of the preseason. He was named the starter over EJ Manuel in Week 5 and led the Bills to a 9-7 season. He threw for 3,018 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 12 games.

"I just have been going at it for 10 years and it's just a family decision and I've decided to get home and be a dad and call it a day," Orton said in a statement.

Orton, 32, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Bears in 2005. He spent three seasons in Chicago before he took over as the starter for four different teams. His 10-year career ends with a 59.5 completion percentage, 18,037 yards with 101 touchdowns and 69 interceptions in 87 games.


Ravens' Harbaugh: Haloti Ngata will 'be ready to go'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:51 am ET) Ravens coach John Harbaugh has no concerns about defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's conditioning as he is set to return from a four-game suspension. Ngata missed the final four games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

"I’m confident Haloti will be ready to go. That’s his job, to be ready to go," Harbaugh said, per ESPN. "I’m confident he’ll do it. He has done it before. He has been there, he knows what’s at stake." 

The Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in the opening round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers K Shaun Suisham scores nine points vs. Bengals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham made two field goals and three extra points in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Suisham connected from 29 and 25 yards out in the second quarter to help give his team a 20-10 halftime advantage, and they were able to maintain that margin in the second half. The kicker finishes the regular season with 29 field goals in 32 attempts, but he went just 1-for-3 in attempts of 50 yards or more, with both misses coming at home. He'll have to kick at home in the first round of the playoffs when the Ravens come to town Saturday.


Steelers WR Martavis Bryant catches TD in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant had just one catch on two targets Sunday but scored a 21-yard touchdown in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Bryant was targeted on a screen pass in the second quarter and split his blockers en route to an easy score on his only catch of the night. He wraps up his rookie season with 26 receptions, 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Bryant will match up with the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown scores two TDs in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught seven of his 13 targets for 128 yards with one touchdown and added a 71-yard punt return touchdown in his team's 27-17 division-clinching win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Brown fielded a first-quarter punt on one side of the field and took the ball halfway across the field to his right before changing directions and sprinting back to his left, outrunning the punt coverage team to the edge and racing ahead for the first score of the game. He made an outstanding adjustment on a fourth-quarter pass that was well defended to beat his man and cut past another would-be tackler for a 63-yard touchdown that gave his quarterback a share of the season passing-yardage lead.

Brown had his own stack of accomplishments in 2014, finishing with franchise-best marks in receiving while leading the league with 129 receptions and 1,698 receiving yards while also racking up 13 receiving touchdowns. He'll square off with a depleted Ravens secondary at home in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger finishes 2014 as passing coleader
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:40 am ET) Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 24 of his 38 passes for 317 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Roethlisberger connected with Martavis Bryant on a screen pass for a 21-yard score in the second quarter then appeared to be completely in sync with leading receiver Antonio Brown on a 63-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that featured an excellent adjustment from the receiver on well-covered route. That play, which was Roethlisberger's last completion of the day, left the Pittsburgh quarterback with a share of the passing lead on the season, tying Drew Brees with 4,952 passing yards.

Roethlisberger racked up 32 touchdowns while throwing just nine interceptions, and he managed to start all 16 regular-season games for just the third time in his career. With the win, the Steelers wrap up the AFC North title and the No. 3 seed in the AFC. They'll face the Ravens at home Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.


 
 
 
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